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I have to say, I am not a fan of most of our 5e questions that are basically along the lines of "sum up the rules for me." Many don't appear to even be real questions, just information seeding. I understand we want 5e to be a success for the site but should we really encourage questions like:

How does wizard & cleric spell preparation and casting work?

What does an average monster in the Starter Set look like?

What are the major differences between the final playtest package and D&D 5e Basic?

When teaching D&D 5e basic to players of previous editions, which terms have new meanings that will likely lead to confusion?

I believe all these questions should be closed, as they are basically just saying "Hey, read and regurgitate the Basic set to me." They're not real questions solving an actual problem. Some are self-answered, which while "not technically bad on SE" is, in this case, IMO just creating 5e content to create 5e content.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ How about a question regarding how to handle wizard familiars? I couldn't find anything in the basic rules about this topic so it would be a new and novel question that doesn't have a set in stone answer, but on the other hand it would largely be pure speculation until the PHB is released so I asked about it on reddit instead. \$\endgroup\$ – Dyndrilliac Jul 15 '14 at 4:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ Clearly, most of them ought to be downvoted. I hesitate to concur that they ought to be closed however. Those are different levers that serve different functions. \$\endgroup\$ – LessPop_MoreFizz Jul 15 '14 at 8:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Dyndrilliac I think its a problem that I agree, you are better off asking questions on Reddit or other forums than here right now. However, that is the opposite of what we should be encouraging here. \$\endgroup\$ – GMNoob Jul 15 '14 at 11:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ The tone of this question is "All of these questions are terrible, please justify me in closing them". Which bothers me. There's a pretty fine line between telling a real question asker "Hey noob, you haven't read the rules. Go back and read them." and "You question is a little unfocused, can you reign it in a bit?" I've voted accordingly, since I think that all of these questions can have value on rpg.se, if we make their focus a bit tighter. The spellcasting mechanic threw me initially because it's fairly different from previous editions (for example). \$\endgroup\$ – Cthos Jul 15 '14 at 16:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ Because we've got a contest about asking 5e rules, for some stupid reason. \$\endgroup\$ – okeefe Jul 15 '14 at 22:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ @okeefe I think the problem is the contest to encourage questions about a system yet to be officially published. Most of the questions I have will probably be answered in the DMG in November... \$\endgroup\$ – user4000 Jul 18 '14 at 14:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MrJinPengyou That's one problem. Another is that all the questions are artificial at this point in time. \$\endgroup\$ – okeefe Jul 18 '14 at 14:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ Parts of the 5e rules larger than some other entire (story)games are out. Asking legitimate questions is possible - people are just overstepping the bounds out of enthusiasm. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk - Justice for Monica Jul 19 '14 at 3:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ @okeefe I have not asked a single artificial question. I have only asked questions that I have either had myself, or saw enough people on forums having that I thought it would be good to drive such question seekers to our site. \$\endgroup\$ – GMNoob Jul 20 '14 at 18:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ It's worth noting that 15 of the last 50 questions with the 5e tag are currently on hold for various reasons. Acknowledging that a portion of these are simply because they are questions from brand new users, it still seems like a significant percentage and points to a genuine issue here. \$\endgroup\$ – Wibbs Jul 24 '14 at 8:35
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Self-answering is hard to do well

It's hard to write a good question when you're planning on self-answering, and a few of our 5e questions suffer from this. It's even harder to write a good answer to such a question. If the problem as-written boils down to "X in 5e is different from [other edition], help help", whatever other virtues the question might have are going to be dragged down by the lack of specifics presented, and the resulting answers are going to suffer the same.

The general problem with self-answered questions is that often the problem is not well-explained, because it doesn't need to be: the answerer can read your mind, because you're the same person.

Solution: Unless one is confident in their ability to write a rockin' question even when self-answering, it may be useful to pause a moment: consider not self-answering for a day or two. Having to explain the problem clearly to others makes it easier to avoid subconsciously taking shortcuts while writing the question. To gain that effect, strongly consider writing the question to the community, and letting them have a crack at it first.

Do research to avoid asking about the really low-hanging fruit

Our question about statistics of the monster math is a valid question but suffers a cardinal question-asking sin: it doesn't just lack evidence of research, but it can only exist as a question because of lack of research.

Solution: We're all excited about 5e, but it's doubly important to take a few moments to consider what research can be done toward solving the problem before asking. It might mean the question becomes moot, but if the question remains after research, it's going to be a good question. And those are what we want.

Broad questions are still broad

When a new edition is out, lots of questions we have are pretty broad due to the nature of how we, as humans, approach a new subject: in a top-down manner, engaging first with the high-level overview and then moving downwards into the nitty-gritty details. Right now there will be the temptation to transform our current questions of engagement into posted Stack questions. But many of those are by their nature fairly broad.

This is not terrible or wrong. But it does mean that taking some extra care to consider the question while writing it can make a large difference in quality.

Solution: When trying to come to grips with a large idea, like "how does X work" or "what is different about Y", try to be as specific about your problem as possible. Remember than being general to help the most people is not actually helpful. Instead, ask yourself some questions: Why do I need to know this? What does knowing solve for me? Can I ask for help solving that instead?

If a problem-centric question doesn't result from this introspection, it's possible that the question simply is too broad. In those cases, the solution is to either not post it, or to post it knowing that it will likely get closed.

For a contentious example of broad question, we have the "What terms have new meanings" question. I think this can be significantly improved by moving away from the broad edition-focused question as written, to a more problem-focused question that's implied, using those questions and some hypothetical (but I think, not too inaccurate) answers:

  • Why do I need to know this? Because lots of my players are going to assume they know what terms mean.
  • What does knowing solve for me? I can focus on the terms that contradict their assumptions when teaching the game to my players.
  • Can I ask for help solving that instead? Yeah, actually: I could ask a question like "When teaching 5e to existing D&D players, what invalid assumptions can I expect them to make?" or something like that.

And if rewriting it as a problem-centric question simply doesn't work somehow, it's probably just too broad.

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I consider what you've said a pretty fair assessment of some of our 5e questions, and that "please read the rules to me" is a pretty fair description of some of them. As we receive D&D 5e questions, we should keep an eye out for those and close them.

I think some of us may have noticed things that could be new and/or confusing, and in our excitement over 5e or creating new 5e questions, we've forgotten those questions have to actually contain problems. Real, actual problems, that someone actually had, whether it was someone at our table or ourselves at some point in the past.

If the problems would be solved by just reading the rules, that's the kind of situation where in the past, we've told the asker: "Hey, maybe you shouldn't be here yet. You should read the books first, and come to us when you've at least got the basics down pat."

The wizard/cleric spellcasting question, if genuine, would be asked to explain exactly what's confusing the user. (It's also problematic that the answer largely relies on the rules to provide its explanation, which wouldn't be helpful if the rules were actually confusing.) The terms question has been a puzzle for me, but may be better off asked as individual instances of "I find {specific concept} confusing because {reasons}. What's with this?", which is an actual problem with some specific correct answers.

However, there's one exception to the ones you've listed:

This isn't a "read the rules to me" question. It wants a statistical analysis of numbers of the Starter Set's contents. Valid question, if the premise is valid: in D&D 4e, "average monster stats per monster level" was meaningful, if you were comparing per role. (If you weren't, it wasn't meaningful.)

In 5e, hopefully the asker and answerers can manage this so the premise is actually something worth worrying about.

Also, the playtest vs release question you asked may be similar to our D&D 3.5e vs D&D 4e Pathfinder trifecta (and other version comparisons of that nature).

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    \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, I can see that on the monster-baselining question. OK, I'll buy that one, but not the other three. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk - Justice for Monica Jul 15 '14 at 4:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ Please read the rules to me isn't new or limited to 5e. Half the 3.5 Handle Animal questions on this site could be summarized as I don't understand what Handle Animal does, explain it to me. Those have never been considered a problem before. \$\endgroup\$ – Tridus Jul 15 '14 at 11:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ When we've had questions like that though, someone's actually had a specific point of confusion and we were able to deal with that. That isn't so much the case here with the two questions I've mentioned. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jul 15 '14 at 11:29
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First and foremost, 2 of the questions on your list aren't terrible, and the other two are only marginally bad.

However, I think there's probably a relatively easy answer here.

  • Most of us haven't played a real 5e game or two yet. (sure, many of us have run playtest sessions, and that's good, but probably most of the questions that came up during those have been answered.

The best questions come from actual play experience and seeing what becomes a problem in your games. That's not to say we can't come up with good questions from simply reading the rules. I've done this with several systems, and lots of questions come up from preparing to play a game.

These questions aren't as good as questions generated from actual play, but they aren't bad or illegitimate questions. Question quality will pick up a great deal as more of us get the starter set (and the PHB, MM and DMG) and start hosting games on a regular basis.

All that said, we need to support all stages of play. We need to be able to ask and answer conceptual questions, questions about switching editions, character creation questions, and questions about preparing as a DM. Most of the questions you highlighted fall into these categories and as such are legit questions.

To address the questions highlighted specifically:

  • This is a platform for a good answer. Yeah, not the best question, but it highlights a clear break in spell casting rules from previous editions of D&D. It's definitely worth a call out. As with more self ask/answers, it needs some work on the question front, but a marginal improvement would make this a great site question.

  • This is my question, and it's been addressed in a few places. But it's a basic char-op starter question. What does the average monster look like at a given CR level so you can have a legit comparison to run the maths. It might seem silly, but it's analytical, answerable, and solves a real world problem (what number do I use for AC when I do average damage calculations).

  • This is a pretty basic edition transition question, we've got a few dozen of them. What are the major differences between edition X and Y. It's not the best style of question, but it's a type of question (and questioner) we should support.

  • This is the most marginal question on the list. It's pretty iffy really, but it falls into the same category of edition changes, what are the unexpected pitfalls of starting the new edition with knowledge of past editions type question. I don't love this particular one, but this style is squarely in bounds.

Overall I think you're making a mountain out of a molehill here. Yeah we're champing at the bit a little, maybe a touch overexcited about the new edition, but really, nothing bad or worrying is going on here.

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    \$\begingroup\$ We should support "all stages" of play, after the "I have read the rules" one. The spellcasting question - it's different, that does not make it "worth a call out." A specific question about how it works does. We may as well have questions about "I like the Inspiration mechanic, let me explain it to you." That's for blogs, not RPG.SE. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk - Justice for Monica Jul 15 '14 at 13:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk again, it's an edition transition question. It's how is spell casting different from Vancian casting of old editions. It looks like somewhere someone who is used to 3.5 and earlier casting would get tripped up on. I see it as a solving an actual problem (again the question itself could use some work, but the question concept is not a problem to me). \$\endgroup\$ – wax eagle Jul 15 '14 at 14:07
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I'm finding a lot of the issue with the 5E questions having a simple root concern: the full game is not out yet. We've got a Starter Set, "Basic Free Rules" that give you character generation and a little bit of task resolution, and a several playtest rules which differ in significant ways.

So, you've got people coming from several "entry" ways to 5E and even if they have all 3, sometimes people will ask a question just hoping someone else will know.

For example "What's an average monster in the Starter Set?" is a question that makes perfect sense if you've gotten the free basic rules but haven't bought the Starter, BUT you want to run a game, right?

What we have at this moment is a lot of interest, incomplete information to really have a full game for a lot of people, and until further rules come out, the questions are going to remain either speculative, built of minimal information, or attempts to squeeze for information that isn't out yet.

If you go to the major RPG forums and look at the discussions around 5E, you'll see a lot of it is in the same vein. "We don't know, the rules aren't out yet." isn't a particularly satisfying answer, even if it's the most accurate one for a lot of the questions. Neither is "The 80% of other rules you need to run a full campaign aren't printed yet, no one can give them to you, sorry."

So maybe the more useful question to ask is to consider which of these kinds of questions are worth entertaining, and in what fashion, for the next 2-3 months? Kill off too many and it doesn't do well, entertain too many and the site becomes just like any other random forum. Finding that line is not easy!

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Of your four listed questions:

  • The first answered questions I had about how the system works and clarified it pretty well, so I consider it a useful question that solves a problem. Going by the votes, I'm probably not alone.
  • The second was covered by Jonathen.
  • The third is extremely useful to anybody who played the playtest and wants to get up to speed on what's changed without reading the new rules and trying to play Where's Waldo by spotting the differences. It probably won't be useful at all next year (as the playtest won't really be a comparison point once the final release has been out for a while), but it clearly serves a purpose right now. It could be a useful place for a community wiki.
  • The last one is... yeah, that is too broad. The summary answer is good though, if only for the "don't assume any terms mean the same thing as they did before" advice.

Sorry, I don't see the problem here. I do see people trying to seed the site with questions and answers so that other people with questions can find those answers (and us) in the game's early days. As I recall, that was a stated goal of giving out free copies to certain users and running a contest.

We really shouldn't be asking people to do something and then complaining when they go out and do it.

(It's also not like "read the rules to me" questions are exactly unheard of. An awful lot of the 3.5/Pathfinder questions amount to reading the rules and explaining them. That the rules are better written this time doesn't suddenly invalidate those types of questions.)

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    \$\begingroup\$ And we've been known to close "read the rules to me" questions with an admonishment to read the rules, lacking any specific point of confusion. We aren't and should not be a "Cliff's Notes for 5e" site. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk - Justice for Monica Jul 15 '14 at 13:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ mxyzplk hit the nail on the head with "specific point of confusion" - you can't solve a problem that doesn't exist (looking at you, Windows Vista...) \$\endgroup\$ – corsiKa Jul 15 '14 at 18:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ @corsiKa Windows Vista created a problem that Windows 7 was there to solve. ;) Seriously speaking, 3 of the four listed do solve a problem IMO. Plus, this whole exercise started because SE wants questions and answers seeded so people can find us when they start playing. There's a contest about it and everything, not to mention the free materials being given out. I don't agree that the questions are terrible, don't agree that they don't solve anything, and really don't agree with going after people for doing what we're actively incentivizing with prizes. \$\endgroup\$ – Tridus Jul 15 '14 at 18:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Tridus Question seeding is almost universally considered a terrible method of creating SE content, so don't be too quick to read that intent into the contest. (Seeding tends to result in low-quality not-real-problem questions, which we don't benefit from.) The more likely intent is to simply raise 5e's profile in people's minds, so that they engage with it more, and bring any questions here instead of elsewhere. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jul 16 '14 at 6:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie Having a contest so that people already sufficiently engaged here to read meta (ie: very few people), in order to get them to ask questions they'd already ask here anyway, frankly doesn't make a lot of sense. If the contest isn't to incentivize seeding questions, then the contest was not well thought out. That's the outcome it's going to create. \$\endgroup\$ – Tridus Jul 16 '14 at 10:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Tridus Don't forget that the contest information is a featured post, so it's visible at the top of the front page for everyone, not just meta regulars. (And regulars in theory know that seeding is self-defeating.) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jul 16 '14 at 14:54
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All the questions you have listed, are real actual questions, that I have needed answered. I'm sorry that my confusion is not your confusion or that you don't believe me, but they are real actual questions.

The latest example, that about how spell casting works, took me more than a few hours on the forums talking to people to grasp the difference.

It's a new version of a game, with many same or similar elements to previous editions of the game. Not everyone is able to so easily grasp why something is different, and or they might read the rules and miss a subtle difference.

For most of my questions that I self answered, I only did so after not being able to get good answers from the community.

A very important point here is that no D&D manual will ever tell you How it's rules are different from the rules previously. They don't spell that out, and it's exactly something that only people with expertise in both/multiple game systems can point out.

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    \$\begingroup\$ If this is the case then it seems to be an issue with how you are phrasing the questions. To me it is coming across that you are trying very hard to nail really broad, killer questions that will cover a lot of ground rather than focusing on very specific issues. \$\endgroup\$ – Wibbs Jul 15 '14 at 10:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ While it'd be nice if everyone always assumed good faith about these things, when I get pushback on whether a question I'm asking is about a "real problem" I try to clarify the actual problem I'm facing--which usually makes it easier for the community to give me good answers, too. \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Jul 15 '14 at 10:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ @phil I am going to be teaching the game to total strangers, I need to be prepared for things that will likely confuse them. I don't know how else to explain this. \$\endgroup\$ – GMNoob Jul 15 '14 at 10:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BESW Sure it would make it easier for the community to give good answers, if these questions were not closed before they are open for a few days. \$\endgroup\$ – GMNoob Jul 15 '14 at 10:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ I get pushback any time I ask a question based on something I expect to have trouble with rather than something I'm actually facing. That's not specific to you or 5e. As for the other--you just said that you answer the questions after the community fails to provide good answers, so I'm not sure your comment about closing them is relevant to the point I was responding to: if you're answering them, they aren't closed. \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Jul 15 '14 at 10:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ @GMNoob I understand your point, and spellcasting is indeed a popular question (just look at the votes), but I am not sure stackexchange is a good place for tutorials or to replace the manuals. \$\endgroup\$ – Sheepy Jul 15 '14 at 10:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ @sheepy I don't see how that is either a tutorial or a replacement of the manual... But I'm pretty certain it's been said multiple times, that SE is a good place for FAQ questions. \$\endgroup\$ – GMNoob Jul 15 '14 at 10:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Sheepy It doesn't replace the manuals, it's a good explanation for people who don't find the manuals clear. I understand it a lot more easily now than I did before reading the answer there. It's pretty useful. \$\endgroup\$ – Tridus Jul 15 '14 at 11:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ "Explain all of spellcasting to me" is not a real question. Specific points of confusion are. I'm sure that is a "question asked at your table," from someone who hasn't bothered to read the rules well, but the fact someone has said it IRL doesn't make it a legit question on SE. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk - Justice for Monica Jul 15 '14 at 13:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk he didn't ask for all of spell casting to be explained. I suggest you read the question more carefully \$\endgroup\$ – GMNoob Jul 15 '14 at 13:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ I did and the difference is negligible within the constraints of discussing in comments. In the terms Q you come out and say that your problem is that you're teaching the rules to people that haven't read the rules. That's not something Q&A can or should replace. This is not Cliffs Notes for 5e, I think that's ENWorld. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk - Justice for Monica Jul 15 '14 at 13:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk That seems like flawed logic to me. If the information in "How do wizard & cleric spellcasting work?" isn't helpful, then explain to me why it has 12 upvotes. Apparently you're the only person who thinks that the information contained therein isn't helpful. Sometimes just phrasing things differently can make them infinitely easier to understand. \$\endgroup\$ – Dyndrilliac Jul 15 '14 at 15:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ Upvotes don't always mean quality. In this case they mostly mean "man I'm excited about 5e yay!" Which is fine, but doesn't mean it's a good question. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk - Justice for Monica Jul 15 '14 at 22:07
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It is not our fault.

Every edition has these kind of questions, but they have more of the good kind, so the proportions are better.

There are 2.5 types of good questions in my opinion.

1 How can I make an efficient character? (Optimization)
2 Does this work? (Rules interpretation)
1.5 How can I achieve this effect? (The mix of 1 and 2)

There are in fact only a few of these kind of questions, but the reason can be found at Wizards of the Coast, and not on this site.

The first type is rare, as there are no options to optimize. No Feats, no Paragon Paths, no Themes, no Epic Destinies, no Magic items.*

The second type is rare, because the rules are better written than in 4e. Much less confusion.
This is a good thing, we should be happy we have few of this kind.

The third type is also rare, because the rules are clear and the options are few.

*Ok, there are magic items, but you have no control over them as a player.

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